Open Source Channel Alliance: Open to MSPs?

Open source applications reached a tipping point in the distribution channel today. Red Hat, Synnex and nearly a dozen open source application providers launched the Open Source Channel Alliance. Our sister site,, offers complete coverage. I'm not suggesting open source will eliminate traditional closed-source solutions. However, the open source mindset -- including code sharing -- continues to infiltrate the managed services market. And the Open Source Channel Alliance will accelerate that trend. Here's why.

The Open Source Channel Alliance will potentially reach roughly 15,000 Synnex resellers -- many of whom are managed service providers targeting mid-market customers.

Combining open source, managed services and the recession potentially creates a perfect storm of sorts. All customers -- large and small -- are seeking ways to run their businesses more efficiently without increasing their IT budgets. And open source typically is associated with low-cost software subscriptions (although that claim isn't always accurate). Over the past year, open source companies like Untangle, Groundwork Open Source, Hyperic and Zenoss have begun to successfully recruit managed service providers.

The Bigger Story

Meanwhile, the open source mindset -- involving cross-company collaboration -- has infiltrated the MSP software provider market.
  • Just about every major MSP software provider evangelizes open APIs (application programming interfaces).
  • Within Autotask's online community, members are creating and sharing software widgets that plug into Autotask's professional services automation platform.
  • At N-able, CEO Gavin Garbutt has built the company's managed services platform on top of open source code.
  • Selected MSPs -- such as Contegix -- have bet their businesses entirely on open source solutions.
  • I could list dozens of additional examples.

Now, The Problems

Will open source rule the managed services market? No. Absolutely not. It ain't gonna happen. (Can I be clearer?) Generally speaking, many  customers and solutions providers prefer closed source because those offerings typically have more mature, more reliable support networks.

  • Many closed-source MSP software platforms, especially those that have shifted to SaaS (software as a service) have ideal designs for MSPs.
  • Red Hat is only major open source company that's publicly held and delivering consistent profits. Many small open source providers do not disclose whether they are profitable.
But my key point: Even closed source companies are adopting open source ideas when it comes to ensuring MSPs collaborate. And I think the Open Source Channel Alliance will accelerate that trend.

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